Archive for February, 2008

6 Authors Who Inspired Me To Read (and write!)

Posted in general post with tags , on February 24, 2008 by Paula

As an avid reader, books have always featured prominently in my life. I can’t recall a birthday or Christmas that I’ve not asked for books.  I was on a first-name basis with my librarian, and spent all my pocket money in the local second-hand store, buying romance books. 

Which brings me to this post.  I remember quite distinctly the very first time I picked up a romance novel – I was twelve, the place was my school library, and the book was Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsay.  Yes, my school librarian was either very progressive or very clueless.  What I also remember was how much Christina and Alex’s story impacted on me (yes, I can still recall their first names without having to check the back cover blurb of my dogeared copy!).  And throughout my reading years, Johanna Lindsey has been an automatic buy for me, the ultimate experience in escapism.  She always delivers the author’s promise of a great story experience every time.  So here’s my list of six authors who have influenced my reading (and writing!)

Shirlee Busbee – both Gypsy Lady and Lady Vixen were groundbreaking for me.  I never knew romances to be bursting with so much excitement, so much breathless passion. And the characters..? Strong heroines and equally strong alpha males who’d stop at nothing to get the heroine.  I adored Lady Vixen’s Nicole for her cabin boy-turned sexy woman, the humor and the history 🙂  Gypsy Lady was gritty, sometimes shocking (especially the scene at the end where the villian abducts Catherine) and amazingly written.

Jude Deveraux – For her “Velvet” and “Lady” series, as well as her amazing time travel, Knight In Shining Armour.  She introduced me to the great humor of romance heroines and made me cry 🙂

Johanna Lindsey – for all the reasons mentioned above, plus the fact that she has written outside the box so many times, including time travel and futuristic. And for the beauty of her glorious alpha hero in Angel, which reduced me to tears (hey, I’m a sucker for an emotional story!)

Elynne Mitchell – I devoured her “Silver Brumby” series when I was nine, and also remember correcting my teacher with the proper spelling of ‘willy-willy’ (yeah, I was pedantic even then!).  I think this would count as one of the first continuities I’ve ever enjoyed 🙂

Kathleen Woodiwiss – For The Flame and the Flower and, particularly, Ashes in The Wind.  The scene where Alaina is captured by the villain and Cole comes to rescue her still brings me to tears.  I adored it so much I copied the scene in a notepad so I could read it again and again after I’d returned my borrowed copy.

Dean Koontz – for the breathless scope of his stories (time travel, horror, supernatural), for writing strong heroines (outside traditional romance novels) and for the brilliant understated use of the dialogue tag “he/she said”.

Nora Roberts – the first book I’d ever read of hers was Hot Ice.  A wonderful, humorous adventure-filled story which reminds me of Romancing the Stone.  Nora, along with Dell’s Candlelight Ecstasy line, introduced me to contemporary novels.

Which authors have inspired you to read? To write? What books are your keepers? Anyone recommend some keepers or insights into what resonates most and by whom?

*BONUS!* post a comment and win a copy of Paula Roe’s first Desire, Forgotten Marriage!

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We welcome guest blogger NALINI SINGH!!!

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , , , , on February 17, 2008 by yvonnelindsay

Nalini Singh was one of the original Diamonds Down Under Divas to be invited to participate in the continuity. As with Fiona Brand, her contract commitments meant she couldn’t come and play with us but in the meantime she’s agreed to guest blog with us today. So, here she is, hot off the NYT extended best seller list with her latest release MINE TO POSSESS, please welcome Nalini Singh!

I’m so excited to be here on the Diamonds Down Under blog. Thanks to the DDU authors for inviting me (of course, they kind of had to, given that I know where they live and everything *grin*). Since this blog is dedicated to a continuity, I thought it’d be fun to talk about series and why we love them. Here are some of my reasons: 

1. I  love going back to meet characters from previous stories – but only if they’re still themselves in the next book. For example, Judd, my ice-cold Psy assassin from Caressed By Ice, is still remote and scary (to outsiders, not his heroine, of course!) in the books following his own. He’s changed and developed, but he didn’t magically turn into a teddy bear (I can’t even imagine that!) 

2. I love seeing the development of the world itself, whether that world is contemporary, paranormal, historical or something else. We get to see parts of the universe we might’ve only glimpsed previously, along with layers of relationships – I liken it to each new book opening a different curtain into the characters’ lives. 

3. I love the sense of something familiar and yet new. I go into a new installment of a favorite series with very high hopes. I know I’ve loved the previous books, so chances are high I’m going to love this next one. And yet, I’m on tenterhooks as I wait to see what the author does with this particular couple, or installment. I guess a good series combines the comfort of a keeper, with the excitement of an unknown story. So, those are some of my reasons. What about sharing some of yours? Why do you love series? What are some of your favorite series / continuities / mini-series?  

Giveaway: Nalini will draw a random winner from the comments to win a signed copy of a book (winner’s choice) from her backlist (excluding current release) AND as an additional giveaway, a copy of Yvonne Lindsay’s ROSSELLINI’S REVENGE AFFAIR will be drawn by Nalini to go to another random winner–be sure and note which prize draw you would like to go into when you comment!

Diamonds Treasure Hunt: February Clues

Posted in Treasure Hunt with tags on February 14, 2008 by tessaradley

Happy Valentine’s Day…yes, it’s already Valentine’s Day down under… and welcome to the second installment of the Diamonds Down Under Treasure Hunt where one lucky winner can win this stunning Diamond Pendant valued at US$350.00.

Clue 1: How many carats is the Desert Star that Jessica and Dani admire in Pride & A Pregnancy Secret? (hint: it’s a measurement in carats)

Clue 2: Apart from the United States, in what two other countries has Pride & A Pregnancy Secret been released? (hint: find it here)

Don’t post the answers here. Collect them, save them, and when you have the answers to all twelve questions in June/July, send them to the contest email address. More details can be found on the Diamonds Down Under contest page. If you missed the January clues for Vows & A Vengeful Groom posted by Bron on 10 January, you’ll find them here.  GOOD LUCK!

We all associate Valentine’s Day with ROMANCE.  What other words do you associate with Valentine’s Day? One winner will be drawn from the comments below. The Prize? A copy of Jan Colley’s incredibly sexy Melting the Icy Tycoon, Tessa Radley’s debut book Black Widow Bride and a skinny book thong.

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift or Date

Posted in general post with tags , , , on February 10, 2008 by Maxine Sullivan

Love is in the air here at our Diamonds Down Under blog and we want to share our perfect Valentine’s Day with you. Be it through the characters in our books, or our own experiences or dreams, Valentine’s Day is all about being in love.

Bronwyn: My perfect Valentine’ gift/date was my wedding day. Yes, I was married on Feb 14, although I must admit I didn’t initially choose the date for romantic impact but for practicality. My dh is a farmer and February is one of the quietest months, farmwise, so we decided on the month first and then I noticed that the 14th was a Saturday. When both the church and a suitable reception venue were available, I nabbed the perfect wedding date. It was a wonderful day and, extra bonus, with all the Valentine’s advertising as a reminder, my husband NEVER forgets our anniversary!

Tessa: In an ideal world, if they were dating like a normal couple, and things were going well, Ryan and Jessica would enjoy nothing more than spending Valentine’s Day at the St Valentine Diamond Stakes race. It’s exciting. It’s got colour and atmosphere. And being totally into fashion, Jessica loves the chance to dress up which a day at the races brings. After race day is over, there is the ball. It may not be as romantic as a candlelit dinner for two. But they get to dance with each other… And afterwards there’ll be an opportunity to slip away with a bottle of French champagne to an intimate world where Jessica and Ryan exist only for each other. Now that’s romantic.

Maxine: The Perfect Valentine’s Gift for me would be to go on a date with my husband to the casino here in Melbourne. He’d surprise me with a diamond necklace, and then we’d dine in one of the posh restaurants, eating the best food and drinking the most expensive wine. And if he had a million dollars to spare I’m sure he’d offer it to me to spend the night with him in one of their best suites, just like Briana and Jarrod do in my book. Of course, even without the million dollars I’d still spend the night with him. And I’ll still love him, money or no money.

Jan: ANYTHING?? You have to know that Valentine Day is not celebrated in our house any more than a quick peck on the cheek. But anything, you say?? Just off the top of my head, I see an elegant table set up in the park – tablecloth, candles and flowers. The meal catered for by our own exclusive chef and of course an elegantly-attired waiter to serve. I doubt that dh could handle a string quartet all night so a favourite cd would do. Lobster in a white wine sauce or oysters done in a variety of ways, lamb as a main, and definitely chocolate of some kind as dessert, maybe a selection of truffles. After coffee, I would present him with tickets to The Masters at Augusta in April, and he would give me this ring. And then we would be treated to our own private fireworks display – magnificent fireworks, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with cannons.
I don’t ask for much…

Paula: The perfect date and gift? Okay, I think little surprises leading up to the day would be perfect (because, let’s face it, Valentine’s can be sooo commercial, right?). So, my Cloned David Boreanaz would first send me flowers (bright gerberas, or perhaps some gorgeous tulips). The next day, a gift certificate to my favorite day spa. Then on the 14th, he’d pick me up in a limo and present me with a small piece of jewellery – something funky and different. Definitely NOT chocolates! Then, we’d go to The Summit where we’d eat a gorgeous seafood buffet in the revolving restaurant with all of Sydney spread below us. After the meal, the limo would take us to the penthouse suite of the Sydney Marriott, where we’d share some decadent dessert and a bottle of Brown Brothers Orange Muscat & Flora dessert wine on the balcony.

Yvonne: My perfect Valentine’s Day date would take the entire day. It would be sheer bliss to head off to a local beachside restaurant for Eggs Benedict for breakfast at Lou Lou at the Beach, a wonderful casual restaurant on Eastern Beach with the warmest hostess, Lou Lou, I’ve ever met. The walls display her art and many of the ceramics you eat from have been hand painted by her also. I’m building quite a collection at home already! After breakfast we’d go for nice long drive along the Pohutukawa Coast, stopping for a long walk along Kaiaua beach if the mood takes us, or maybe dropping into the Dragon’s Nest pottery shop to enjoy the handcrafted dragons there and maybe indulge in a porcelain water dragon to guard my writing desk. As the afternoon draws on we’d check into the Heritage Hotel & Spa Du Vin in the Maungatawhiri Valley where we’d indulge in his-and-her massage in the spa. By evening we’d dress up for a candlelit dinner for two in the hotel restaurant, with perfectly chilled champagne to enjoy together with our meal. The rest I’ll leave up to your imagination!

What’s your special Valentine’s Day memory? Or how would you like to spend Valentine’s Day with your partner?  Post a comment and you could win a copy of Maxine Sullivan’s first Desire, The Millionaire’s Seductive Revenge!

Too Much Pride & A Little Pregnancy…

Posted in general post with tags on February 2, 2008 by tessaradley

…mean plenty of complications in Pride & A Pregnancy Secret, the second book in our Diamonds Down Under continuity series. Creating a continuity series was a challenge, and streched me to the limit as a writer. Tying the characters, the details, the settings together was complex. But at the end of the day it all came together. And I’m utterly thrilled with the final result that is DIAMONDS DOWN UNDER. Let me share with you 6 things about the story, the characters and the places where the action take place.

1. JESSICA’S CAT
The cat ALMOST didn’t survive the first draft of P & A P S. And Picasso certainly wasn’t welcome in Ryan’s blue-chip-bachelor penthouse.

Picasso? Ryan’s frown deepened. Who the hell was Picasso? Oh, yes…her ragbag cat.
 
No pets. No kids. No press. No diamond rings. Those had been the ground rules of their affair. He wasn’t sure which item on the list he detested most. They all reeked of the insidious ways that women curtailed a man’s freedom. If he’d allowed the cat, the designer elegance of the penthouse would’ve been transformed into homely before he’d had time to take a breath.

But this ragbag feline has nine lives!

2. THE PYRMONT PENTHOUSE
Ryan’s luxurious penthouse on Pyrmont Peninsula, Darling Island, is in one of the most sought-after waterfront locations in the world. Overlooking Sydney Harbour, the penthouse has amazing views of the city skyline.

After Jessica was promoted from the Blackstone’s Adelaide store to become manager of the flagship Sydney store, Ryan talked Jessica into all but moving to his penthouse. It’s private. It’s luxurious. It’s the perfect tryst for lovers. Surely the spacious penthouse has everything a woman could want? A state of the art kitchen, an interior furnished by Sydney’s top designer, a spa on the deck, an in-ground plunge pool and an endless deck right on the water to laze away the summer evenings. He’s even convinced her to sublet her own apartment—or so he thinks!

But a multi-million dollar penthouse is not what Jessica most desires… And when Jessica walks away from the sterile life, Ryan finds that he’s restless…and the penthouse-that-has-everything no longer holds Jessica. It loses much of its appeal for this millionaire bachelor.

3. BLACKSTONE’S SYDNEY

At the top of the stairwell lay the salon-style showroom, with its thick marbled columns and glittering crystal chandeliers, redolent with the rich patina of wealth.

The Sydney Blackstone’s store is the place to go to find magnificent diamonds. From clear colourless stones to pinks and yellows the choice is endless. Jessica has the job of her dreams—manager of the prestigious Sydney store. She loves the diamonds, she enjoys helping couples pick out an engagement ring—despite the bittersweet emotion that fills her at such times. Because Ryan Blackstone made it clear he’ll never give a diamond ring to any woman.

After discovering that she was pregnant she had no choice but to walk away from Ryan Blackstone. Work is all she has. She’s good at it—and she loves it. Right now she’s working with Kimberley Blackstone-Perrini to put together the upcoming Something Old Something New launch of next summer’s best jewellery designs. With sparkling, unique pieces put together by designers such as Xander Safin—and Dani Hammond. Jessica couldn’t be more fulfilled from a career perspective—until Ryan decides he wants to be involved in the launch too…

4. FLEMINGTON RACECOURSE, MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA

The annual St. Valentine Diamond Stakes, sponsored by Blackstone Diamonds would be held next week in Melbourne. Jessica had been considering giving the event a wide berth this year. Prickles of tension spread across her skin. Last year she’d spent the day pretending to barely know Ryan and the night going wild in his arms…

“It would be a pity to miss that.” She glanced at him hoping that none of her memories showed in her eyes.

A frown pleated his brow. “I’m too busy to go to Melbourne.”

Because she knows she will be safe, that Ryan will be far away, Jessica attends the race on Valentine’s Day at Flemington Racecourse (famous for the Melbourne Cup—first run in 1861). Only to find…

The emerald turf of Flemington racecourse provided a dramatic backdrop for the jewel-bright silks worn by the jockeys. In the parade ring, the best of this year’s fillies circled. Some walked on a loose rein, while others snatched at the bit and kept breaking into a trot, showing high spirits.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

At the sound of Ryan’s rough voice, Jessica lowered the binoculars. He was dressed in entirely in black. A black suit, black shirt and black highly polished Italian shoes. He looked debonair, dangerous…and every inch a Blackstone.

“I wasn’t sure that you were coming.” She met his gaze squarely. “I certainly didn’t expect to see you here.”

Ouch! But as unlucky as Jessica might be in love, she has a talent for picking the winner each year. And this year her eye is caught by a Blackstone filly fittingly named Diamond Lady.

“Here they come!” Ryan’s exclamation had her leaning forward to squint at the horses in leading bunch. “And Diamond Lady is right up there.”The fillies thundered past the stands, the jockeys bent over their necks, their bodies in rhythm with the horseflesh beneath them. The roar of the crowd was deafening.“She might make it!” The excitement in Ryan’s voice was contagious. Jessica grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly as the horses flashed past the finish line.

As Jessica discovered there’s a definite excitement at the races. Adrenalin? Maybe. It’s a sexy kind of energy. And Ryan and Jessica are not immune!

5. BUNDABERG GINGER BEER
 Jessica and Ryan enjoy a picnic lunch which is accompanied by my fave drink of all time: Bundaberg Ginger Beer. An Aussie treasure. Truly. Bundaberg Ginger Beer—named for the town—is made from honest-to-goodness root ginger which is grown in central Queensland. The ginger taste is sharp and refreshing, but without too much spiciness. Perfect for the 30 degree plus days were having in Auckland right now! I love the sound of the Brown Pelican—a recipe from Bundaberg’s website.

Brown Pelican
125mL Apple cider
75mL Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Ice
Combine all ingredients, stirring gently and splash over ice cubes in a highball glass. ENJOY!

6. BYRON BAY
When I visited Byron Bay several years back I thought it was one of the most idyllic places on earth. Wide beaches. Endless ocean. And a stunning lighthouse perched on Australia’s most easterly point. So it was easy to locate the Blackstone family’s beach house in Byron Bay to which Ryan and Jessica pay an all to fleeting visit.

“There quite a few pods of dolphins who make Byron Bay their home.”

Ryan had come up soundlessly behind her. And Jessica struggled to keep her composure as his warm breath winnowed her hair as he spoke. “And in winter the humpback whales come to visit. The bay is full of stingrays.”

His arms slid around her from behind, and his chin rested on her shoulder, his cheek against her hair.

And while there are sad memories attached to the beach house for Ryan—it’s the place where his mother died—it also holds happy memories. Memories of quality family time spent together with his father, times that Ryan holds sacred. So it’s no surprise that it’s here where we see a more tender, more emotional side of the tough, uncompromising Ryan Blackstone.

I have no doubt that despite the poignant memories associated with the beach house, despite the possibility that the family might need to raise funds to fight off a takeover of Blackstone’s, the beach house will always be there for the Blackstones.

Pride & A Pregnancy Secret is now available in North American bookstores and on-line from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an e-Book from eHarlequin.